Celebrating Men’s Health Month
Men: have you found yourself saying any of these phrases when you’re not feeling your best?
“I’m not that sick.”
“My injury doesn’t hurt; I just need to rest.”
“It’s just a cold.”
For too many men, these statements are commonplace. Culture has long prioritized “masculinity,” the idea that men are mentally and physically strong, and pain or illness is a weakness. Men are less likely to seek medical treatment for illnesses or injuries. A recent study found that in the last 18 months, 75% of men hadn’t gone to the doctor for specific symptoms of an illness, 84% hadn’t consulted a doctor for an injury, and almost half hadn’t visited their family doctor for an annual wellness visit.1
The History of Men’s Health Awareness
In the mid-1980s, medical professionals began recognizing the need for more emphasis on men’s health as the number of men who died from preventable diseases increased. By 1992, the Men’s Health Network began celebrating Men’s Health Month in June and worked with legislators to make it official. President Clinton signed the bill establishing National Men’s Health Week on May 31, 1994.
Early advocates recognized that preventing male-centric diseases like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, and heart disease was more cost-effective than treatments. They believed a week of awareness events, national events, and accessible screenings during June—a month already dedicated to fathers—would help reach more men.
As the popularity of National Men’s Health Week grew, the Men’s Health Network established a Wear Blue day to encourage men to seek regular checkups.
What diseases strike men more often?
Some diseases strike only men, but many others can be found in both sexes and account for higher mortality. These conditions include:
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men of all ages and races.4 Lifestyle factors are the leading causes of heart disease: the food we eat, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and lack of exercise. Men tend to have more risk factors and are also more likely to have high blood pressure, contributing to heart disease.2
Prostate cancer is a severe disease that is also highly treatable and has a high rate of survivorship—3.1 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today. Awareness and screening are critical survival factors.3
Although only 3% of U.S. men die of diabetes,4 this disease can affect the quality of life and exacerbate other physical and mental health issues. For instance, untreated diabetes can cause vision loss, muscle loss, pain and tingling in extremities, and kidney problems. It also contributes to lower testosterone, leading to depression, fatigue, and erectile dysfunction.5
Suicide is the second-highest cause of death in men aged 20 to 44 and the third-highest for boys and teens.4 Factors for men include underdiagnosed mental illness, societal pressures, and hesitance to seek help for emotional problems—all issues that Men’s Health Month aims to overcome with more awareness and mainstream attention.
Intersection of Physical Health and Mental Health
But with the additional visibility into male-centric diseases, men’s mental health is largely overlooked, even though one in three people with physical health conditions also show signs of mental health problems like depression or anxiety, and cognitive issues increase the risk for developing physical conditions.6
Men are less likely to seek help for emotional issues and more likely to self-monitor symptoms, self-treat depression and anxiety, and deny emotional symptoms. However, a person’s mind and body are inseparable, so it’s essential to keep both aspects in prime shape. A mentally healthy man can more easily work to prevent common diseases.
How to Help Men Stay Healthy
Everyone can help the men in their lives with these simple tips and ideas:
- Watch for signs of depression—irritability, social withdrawal, lack of interest in things they love, or falling behind on daily tasks.
- Offer honest and open support without judgment.
- Share self-guided tools to help them navigate their emotions privately.
- Encourage men to use employee assistance program (EAP) benefits from their employer.
Most importantly, we can all play a part in normalizing mental health concerns and eliminating the stigma associated with seeking professional help. Visit Uprise Health to learn more about our digital EAP program, online counseling, chronic care management, and more.